Dumplings are simply cooked dough. Each culture has their own version and they can be steamed, poached, boiled, baked or fried. When thinking dumpling, many will immediately gear towards the Asian cultures with their plentiful varieties, but there are so many more representations of the dumpling and most are available in Dallas.
When looking for the perfect dumpling look no further than a pierogi, the boiled or baked dish with Central European roots can be filled with meat, cheese, fruit and even sauerkraut. A popular filling in the United States is the venerable potato.
The Central American pasteles vary from country to country, and even regional differences can be noted, but most often made with a dough similar to masa and with an infinite selection of fillings including plantains, taro or calabazas.
More familiar dumplings to our area include the samosa, which is wildly popular in Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cuisine. The samosa plays large in Pakistan and can be found in restaurants locally such as Indo-Pak Café and Chameli both in Richardson located on Polk Street. Chameli is also home to one of my favorite dishes, the flavorful rice dish, biryani.
Earlier this week our beloved contributor Joy Jangles extolled the virtues of the xiao long bao that she had while visiting the most popular dumpling house in the world, Din Tai Fung. These tiny little wrapped meatballs are brimming with soupy juices and steamed to perfection. To eat, the XLB is placed on a large spoon then the diner nibbles an edge to slurp out the soup and finally eaten whole for a mouthful of dumpling goodness.
There are several locations to find XLB’s in Dallas. One of the best spots is Yao Fuzi where they have perfected the Shanghai dish. There the dumplings are always hand-made, fresh and full of the necessary juices.
Another great location for XLB in North Dallas is Royal China at Preston Royal where you will find an actual dumpling bar to watch these beauties being made in full view. Note that Royal China is the oldest Chinese restaurant in Dallas and has undergone a beautiful updated face lift. There you will enjoy the antics of the noodle-maker as he tosses, slams and stretches out some very lovely pasta and dough for the dumplings.
At the Dallas Farmers Market check out the Himalayan Dumplings from Muda Flavors of Nepal. The free sample will convince you this is something you too will miss when not in Dallas.
On a different end of the dining spectrum and a wonderful example of a dumpling is the ethereal chicken and dumpling that is made popular as a southern specialty and served at numerous spots across Dallas and Fort Worth. One of the better versions is a recipe that can be found at Garden Café in East Dallas. There among the backyard garden you will find the stick-to-your-ribs bowl of home-made dumplings, shards of chicken and a soothing thick broth that will remind you of home. Currently offered on Sundays, just like your mother made but perhaps better.
Parigi makes an excellent version of the chicken and dumplings, and they use owner Janice Provost mother’s recipe.
Parigi chicken and dumplings
Another form of dumpling is the empanada. This may seem more like a pastry, but fit’s the description neatly. This meat-filled pastry can be found in any Spanish-influenced country including Argentina, but also a unique version called the Jamaican Patty that can be located through out the Caribbean.
Locally we found a wonderful empanada establishment in Irving called Argentina Bakery. Here you will find many baked goods such as their delicious tarts (tarteleta) and little cake bites called dulche de leche masitas. But let there be no doubt that the empanadas are truly some of the best in the area.
There are many more versions of the dumpling, however broad the definition. One last dumpling we wish to mention today is pillowy gnocchi. Often as simple as flour, egg and potato, the humble gnocchi is the better part of the primi piatti with an Italian meal. The trick behind the barrel shaped pasta is the use of a gentle hand while making the dish.
Locally we can sometimes find a fantastic gnocchi on the menu at Lucia (menu varies), as well as another one of our favorite Italian haunts, Nonna. Both of these establishments hand roll their gnocchi with the same love as your grandmother.
Deli News offers some delicious soups that are especially hearty and healing this time of the year. Whereas we really enjoy the matzo ball soup, with its gargantuan-sized matzo ball, the kreplach is the dumpling we desire. Kreplach are small dumplings filled with ground meat, mashed potatoes or another filling, usually boiled and served in chicken soup, though they may also be served fried. Enjoy this bowl of dumplings with their huge pastrami on rye.
The dumpling always seems to satisfy as the perfect comfort food regardless of where you may find them.